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A guide to finding records

With millions of items to search, it’s not always easy to find the archive records you want.  Here are some hints.

​There is a search box on every page of our website. This is a good first step to discover things in our collections, especially if you don’t know whether the information you are looking for is published or unpublished. The search box will find material from our Names Index, Tasmanian newspaper references and the details of archival series, but it won’t find everything. 

Guides to records

Our expert staff have written guides to help you find ​the most useful records. ​​

Check out our family history guides, convict portal​, and guides on a range of popular topics. They may take you to the specific information you want.

Explore Tasmanian archives online (TAO)

If you can’t find what you’re looking for through single search or the guides, please go to Tasmanian Archives Online (TAO). This is our main search engine for Tasmanian archival items.


  • While we are digitising many archive items, only some Tasmanian archive items are online
  • Many archival items have not been described online, often due to privacy or security reasons.

Get familiar with some archive terms and concepts

Searching archives is easier if you understand some archives terms.


The major responsibilities or activities of an agency. For example, healthcare is a function of the Department of Health and Human Services.


The record creator – usually a government department, administrative unit, private organisation or individual. We give each agency a unique number to identify it

  • Government agencies begin with "TA"
  • Non​​-government agencies begin with "NG"

An agency can create one or many series of records.


One or more items linked together. Think of a series as a folder of like documents. Some are linked to other series, in much the same way we have folders inside other folders on our computers. 

​​We give each series a unique number to help us identify them.


A document, record, film, photograph, map, box of letters or other thing. It’s the smallest entity we record.  Each item is in a series.

Search options

You can search

  • All words - for example, a search for "mine" will show all records with the words mine, mines, determine, examine, etc.
  • Exact words – for example a search for “mine” will give you records that have that word
  • Using Boolean operators such as “or” “and” or “and not”

Our online archive search offers three ways to search archives records

  • Searches across all information including titles and descriptions.
  • Useful for all researchers, even experienced ones.
  • To search, enter a word or words in the search field and select one of the search options.
  • Displays results in hierarchical order –agency, series, item - then chronologically
  • Find further details via the link on the identifier number. Get back to the search results from any detail page.

search results 

Specialised searches

For researchers with some experience with archive systems and terms. Search for example by:

  • Function – useful to identify agencies relevant to a particular area of activity. If you do a function search with nothing in the search field, you can browse through all of the functions.
  • Agency – to find agencies organisations including that search term. You can search by the agency title or description. You can narrow the search by including a start and end date range.
  • Series – you can search series through our basic search box at the top of our website homepage. Like agency searches, you can search by the series number, the series title or description, and you can narrow the search using start and end date ranges.
  • Item – as we have a huge number of items, your search results are likely to be huge, and you should try other search options first.  Again, you can search by item number or item description, and you can narrow results using start and end dates. Please note:
    • not all items have a description
    • there are items that have not yet been loaded, and so will not appear
    • items with restricted access will not show up

You can put in dates in a number of ways, for example

    • 31/12/1996 (dd/mm/yyyy)
    • 31 Dec 1996
    • Dec 1996 (no day)
    • December 1996​
    • 12/1996

If you just put in a start date range, with no end date, it will search for results after that date. If you just put in an end date range, you will see results older than that date.
Note sometimes results show in capitals or lower case – this is only because the way we entered the information has changed.

Browse by agency

browse agency alphabet 

Choose the letter of the agency is likely to begin with. Results are alphabetical by default, but you can choose to list them by date.

Understand access to some records is restricted

You cannot access some records due to personal privacy or similar reasons. Access to some records have restricted access for 75 years after the date they were created. If you have a legitimate need to access these records, you will need to ask the responsible agency for permission.

Access categories

  • ‘Open’ - anyone can access the records. All records 75 years or older are open access.
  • ‘E’ and ‘C’ - only a specified user or group of users can access the records
  • ‘D’ - only the responsible agency can look at the record
  • ‘B’ - access is for research purposes only and is at the discretion of the State Archivist
  • “S/F” or “See file” – please ask us about access to these records.

Please see information about accessing personal records​ if you are seeking access to records about yourself.

Know what our online archives searches do not include

Our Tasmanian archives online database does not include published items nor the following types of items.  Search for published items using our general library search box.

  • Tasmanian parliamentary papers
  • Directories & almanacs
  • Tasmanian electoral rolls
  • Tasmanian records held by other organisations. If we do have a copy of them, you should be able to find it through our general search.
  • Newspapers and other published information

Need help finding what you want? Ask us!

Don't forget, we're here to help you.